The devastation was both beautiful and horrific. Thousands were vaporized in blazes of fiery explosions, and the blood, sweat and livelihood of untold thousands more across the Earth evaporated into nothingness practically overnight. It was a battle whose ramifications reverberated through the vast reaches of space and time, and the bitter irony is that it was all a consequence of someone, somewhere flubbing a bill payment in an online game.
“EVE Online,” the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) game developed by Iceland-based studio CCP games and boasting over 500,000 active subscriptions in every time zone, just experienced the most destructive in-game battle in its 10-year history. Christened by “EVE” players as the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, it is being heralded on major news outlets and throughout the Internet as the longest and most expensive player-versus-player battle in the history of online gaming.
An official blog post written by a representative of the development team stated that the battle involved over 2,000 real-world participants and the equivalent of $300,000 in losses. However, estimates elsewhere evaluate the damage to be as high as $500,000. The battle took approximately 21 hours, beginning at 6:30 a.m. PST on Jan. 27.
The developer blog posted gave an explanation of the causes and effects of the battle, and attributed the root cause to a single missed bill payment from one of “EVE”’s player-run corporations (the equivalent of clans or guilds in fantasy MMOs which are often run like real-world businesses) for control and ownership of B-R5RB, the solar system in question. Ownership, or “sovereignty” to use in-game terminology, dropped from the corporation and rival factions known as the CFC and the Russian Forces immediately rushed in, attempting to seize it. On the other side, the Pandemic Legion, the alliance to which the corporation belonged, rushed to defend it alongside their allied confederation known as N3. The two sides met head on, and all hell broke loose.
One might think that the world of “EVE Online” is a hyper-competitive, daunting, ruthless, and unforgiving place–and they would be right. Both the high-risk, high-reward capitalistic environment and the sheer massive size, scale, interconnectedness, and intricacy of the game world means that accomplishing anything of any real consequence is more often than not a lengthy and protracted time investment, requiring the concerted effort of large groups of players working in cohesion over days, weeks, months, or even years in real life. Conversely, as evidenced by last Monday’s battle, even the actions and decisions of a single player could potentially affect the entire universe.
In calculating the economic impact of the battle, it should be noted that ISK, the in-game currency used in “EVE Online,” is not directly exchangeable for U.S. dollars, and CCP games has prohibited the sale of in-game items and resources for real money. The exchanged rates between ISK and USD are based on PLEX, an in-game item used to extend subscription time for players of the game. One unit of PLEX is equal to 30 days of game time, which is purchasable with in-game ISK but can also be purchased for $15. The developer’s blog post estimates that 11 trillion ISK worth of assets were lost during the Bloodbath of B-R5RB.
Most of the damage incurred from the battle itself is attributed to the destruction of Titans, massive starships that each take thousands of hours and vast in-game resources to make and have the potential to wipe out entire fleets at the push of a button. The worth of individual Titans via ISK to USD is estimated at an average of $3,000, possibly much more depending on how the ship has been modified and upgraded. According to the blog post, 75 Titans in total were lost during the conflict. You do the math.
The logistics involved in the conflict put so much strain on the game’s server that the studio had to slow down time in the system in order for all the ship commands can be processed. CCP Games are currently in the process of building a permanent memorial to the battle in B-R5RB, a massive ship-graveyard players can explore known as Titanomachy, which they are planning to upload during server downtime on Jan. 31.